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Is giving the RTI Act enough: Who will give security to the RTI activists?
Right to Information Act, 2005 empowers people where they can ask desired informations from select government departments. No doubt this Act has brought transparency in the system to some extent and has forced the government departments to create a corruption free environment.

Some are using the RTI Act to solve their individual problems while there are people who are using this Act as a weapon to expose corruption on regular basis. The latter category is of RTI activists, who on sensing corruption in any government departments file RTI in a bid to extract truth. They are respected widely for their pro-society job.

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However, there are people also who see these RTI activists as a threat to them and their act of corruption. In their bid to eliminate this threat they can go to any extent i.e. from issuing warnings, to physical attacks to murder. Two latest incidents which happened earlier this week prove how vulnerable the RTI activists have become.

A 32-year old RTI activist, Abrar Ahmad Jamil Ansari from Bhiwandi in Maharashtra was allegedly attacked by a nine-member gang. He was attacked with wooden planks on Monday, December 16 in the Gayatri Nagar locality. Abrar was bleeding profusely when he was rushed to the hospital by locals. However, he could not cope with the injuries and later died on Tuesday.

The only fault of Abrar was that he had lodged several complaints against some illegal buildings by obtaining records under the RTI Act. Not happy with Abrar's activism, a Samajwadi Party corporator Atif Khan along with a builder allegedly scripted his murder story. According to Abrar's relatives, three months ago, following the RTI revelation, the deceased had filed an application in the Bhiwandi-Nizampura municipal corporation against Khan. Khan had allegedly called Abrar to meet him near his residence on Monday night, where his hired goons attacked him.

It's the same UPA government which introduced the RTI Act in the year 2005 to ensure transperacy and accountabiltiy in the system. On every platform be it a public rally or any government function, the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh do not forget to mention that they gave nation the RTI Act, a weapon against corruption. But what about the security of those who are using this Act in practical?

The attacks on RTI applicants such as one on Abrar will certainly discourage people from filing any RTI in future since there is no provision under which they can claim security from the authorities. We talked to Subhash Chandra Aggrawal, a noted RTI activist, about what should be done to check attacks on the RTI applicants across the nation. Aggarwal said that the whistle-blower act should be passed by the parliament soon to ensure security to RTI activists.

“As you know that Lok Sabha was suspended two days earlier. We were planning to put forward the whistle-blower protection act. In which there is a provision for security of the person who files complaint. The Govt. is taking this incident (attack on RTI activists) very lightly and I think that this matter should be moved to the National Human Rights Commission. May be they can take it seriously and do something about that. The Lokpal bill which was passed in the Lok Sabha was the half bill. We are planning to put forward the supplementary act and whistle blower protection act which also includes the protection of RTI activists and other whistle-blowers,” said Aggrawal.

In an other incident in Greater Noida , an RTI activist Anoop Singh was abducted and tortured by unidentified assailants for four days. The attackers burnt the victim's private parts with cigarettes and brutally beat him with hot iron rods. Later Anoop was dumped near a petrol pump in a neighbouring district Ghaziabad.

The 29 year old victim is also the vice-president of the Dankaur unit of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Anoop had filed several RTI applications, mostly regarding infrastructure projects, which have earned him the reputation of being a whistle-blower in his area.

According to Anoop's family, he had been threatened by a road and pavement construction contractor last month after an RTI he filed with the Yamuna Expressway Authority in October. That RTI resulted in a committee being formed to inspect the quality of the contractor’s work in Sikka village, neighbouring Dankaur.

We tried to get ruling party's version on what government is thinking to do to protect whistle-blowers be it RTI activists or others. The Congress leader and MP Bhakt Charan Das accepted that there are weaknesses in the present laws which do ensure security to the whistle-blowers. He said that the whistle-blower act should be passed soon by the parliament.

“RTI has been used in both good sense and bad sense both.  Some people file RTI applications only to blackmail other people and authority. I think that false complaints should be penalised. The incident of Anoop where he's been kidnapped and tortured was the work of some contractors against whom he complained. I think that identity of the person (applicant) should be kept secret, there has been weakness in the law. Whistle-blower Act was pending in the Lok Sabha. And the Lokpal bill which has been passed has some weakness like there is no provision of penalising the officer accused in corruption and victimizes the whistle-blower”.

The Congress MP said that that the government was very sincere about the whistle-blower Act. “I am personally keen that this bill should be passed and the whole Congress party wanted the Whistle-blower bill to pass, only than there will be protection to the whistle-blower and the corruption should be checked,” added Bhakt Charan Das.

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